Saturday, December 24, 2011

TNRLM's Favorite TV Characters of the Year: The 2011 Contest

Welcome back to an annual Holiday tradition, the TNRLM Character Contest, where I look back at some of my favorite TV characters of the year, AND give you a chance to win some great television.

Here's a quick overview of the contest and the rules:

  1. Below I've posted a collage of cropped images of my 26 Favorite TV Characters from the calendar year 2011.
  2. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to accurately identify all* 26 characters. NOT the actor. NOT the show. THE CHARACTER.
  3. I’ve done 25 before, but due to an error in editing, I wound up with 26 this year. So either I can’t count, or I’m too lazy to go back and edit the picture. Just think of it as one more chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge.
  4. Entries should be a list, numbered 1-26, with the corresponding character name.
  5. The first reader to send me an email correctly identifying all* the characters will win a prize.
  6. Deadline for entries is midnight, Sunday, January 1st.
  7. The prize will be an iTunes episode (in HD, if available) from one of the 26 shows in which any of the characters on my list appears. (You choose the show and the episode, and the particular episode doesn't necessarily have to be from 2011 . For example, if one of my favorite characters is Dean Winchester, you could choose "Devil's Trap" from Supernatural's first season.
*When the contest deadline is over, I will review all the entrants. The first, according to the gmail timestamp, entry to correctly identify all 26 characters will win. However, should no one identify all 26 characters, the first timestamped entry to correctly name the GREATEST NUMBER of characters will be declared the winner. (In the two previous contests, no one has named all of them. In 2009, Amanda got 24 of 25, and in 2010, Jim got 20 of 25 – as did another contestant – but he had the earliest time stamp. By eight minutes!). So even if you don't know them all, you could and should enter.

Easy enough, right? Okay, same as previous years, here are a few more rules, disclaimers and considerations:

  • I'm going to limit myself to one character per show. In reality, when you look at the talent-rich casts of shows like Fringe, Boardwalk Empire, Community, or Game of Thrones, I could fill up the collage with just them.
  • None of the characters featured in the 2009 and 2010 contests will be repeated here. Because if I did, it would just be a big collection of Ron Fucking Swanson and Walter Bishop pictures.
  • The characters are not necessarily the "best" characters, nor the most expertly-portrayed characters. Just my favorites (within the confines of the contest rules, e.g., not on last year's list, aired in 2011, one per show).
  • The characters listed will have to have been part of the regular cast or a recurring guest star for multiple episodes, and not a single-episode guest star. There is ONE “cheat” or “exception” to this rule, but if you really think about it, it’s not.
  • The characters have to be from an episode that originally aired in calendar year 2011.
  • I'll publish the list and contest here on the blog and simultaneously tweet a link to the post. So no matter how you usually get here (casual reading, twitter, RSS reader, etc.) you'll have the same opportunity to play.
  • You'll need a valid email address. Obviously, if I'm going to give the winner iTunes TV goodies, I'll have to send you a link to pick up your prize.
  • Submissions are by email, rather than by comments posted on the blog itself, so that partial or incorrect submissions wouldn't give "hints" or "a leg up" to subsequent entries.
  • The submissions can be sent to the email address on the side of this blog: TNRLMeditor(at)
  • Enter as many times as you like!

Remember, DO NOT post your numbered entries or guesses in the comments.  But, feel free to talk about your favorite characters there.

So, without further ado, here are the pictures:

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top TV of 2011

What a terrific year for television. No matter what genre or style you happen to be a fan of (with the possible exception of science fiction), there was something moving, thought-provoking or just plain entertaining on the menu for you. We saw returning favorites up their game (Parks & Rec, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Justified), auspicious debuts (Game of Thrones, Homeland) and out of nowhere pleasant surprises (Wilfred, Revenge, Alphas).

Here's my list of the tops in TV for 2011. Inspired by the methodology from the AV Club's Best TV of 2011 list, I assigned a total of 150 points across my favorite shows of the year, with a max of 15 and minimum of 1. First, the grid, and then a few thoughts:

The top two shows were a contrast in focus. Breaking Bad delved deeply into the psyches of a handful of flawed, fascinating characters, while Game of Thrones lived up to the hype and expectations of fans of the novels, and showcased an entire sprawling world, yet both proved that while plot machinations and unexpected reveals can keep you on the edge of your seat, it's really the characters that matter.

Justified is just like a fine bourbon of the kind they drink in Harlan County; it gets better with age. Mags Bennett was a wonderful creation, rightly earning Margo Martindale an Emmy, and Raylan Givens is right there in the pantheon of gunslingers we'd all want to be, with Mal Reynolds and Han Solo.

Speaking of sci-fi, it wasn't exactly a good year. Stargate Universe got canceled just as it started to get good, Terra Nova was a willfully stupid, disjointed mess, Falling Skies was schmaltz and Torchwood: Miracle Day took some fascinating ideas and dumbed them down so much that we almost forgot how good Children of Earth was. Still, Fringe doubled down on its alternate universe plot and continued to feature unsung, award-worthy work from its leads (now including Seth Gabel as Lincoln Lee), and Doctor Who produced some awe-inspiring episodes (particularly the openers and Neil Gaiman's), though the master plot for the season crawled up its own ass a bit. Despite that, Matt Smith, Karen Gillian, Arther Darvill and Alex Kingston gave it everything they had and sold the emotion, if not the logic, of all the twists and turns. Now, how about a spinoff with Madame Vastra and Jenny?

Friday Night Lights didn't have an undefeated season on the screen (did anyone care about "Epyck?"), but it spiked the ball in the endzone with an emotionally perfect finale. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, y'all. Texas Forever.

Comedies had a VERY strong year. What do you like? Satiric and profane? Optimistic and sweet? Cynical and pop-culture aware? Realistic and continuity be damned? Just laugh out loud funny? All here and accounted for in 2011.

Good "pulp" is hard to do right. If it's too self-serious, it can become dour and bludgeoning. If it's too operatic and over the top, it ventures into unintentional comedy. For me, Sons of Anarchy and Luther struck just the right balance (anchored by captivating performances), and gave me the thrill of reading dime novels as a kid.

There's probably no middle ground with American Horror Story. You either love it or hate it. To me, it was a wildly amusing cuisinarting of every plot point under the sun (Ghosts! Sex! The Anti-Christ! Murder! Rape! Flashbacks! Abortions! The Pope! Bitchy gays! School shootings! Teen love! And MORE!) made all the more enjoyable by Jessica Lange chewing ALL THE SCENERY as Blanche DuBois by way of The Exorcist. Come for the worst fictional therapist since Dr. Chilton, and stay for the Rubber Man! Of course, since this is a Ryan Murphy joint, we know the center won't hold and it will soon devolve into an even more incomprehensible and less amusing disaster, so enjoy it while you can.

And finally, lowered expectations can lead to pleasant surprises. I didn't hold out much hope for Alphas, after Heroes, No Ordinary Family and The Cape, among others, shit the bed on telling engaging superhero stories. However, slowly but surely, Alphas assembled a solid cast and offered up a compelling take on the genre within a SyFy budget. I'm also not one for prime time soaps (at least since I was a kid watching JR Ewing). But on a lark, I added Revenge to the DVR and lo and behold, I was entertained week after week with this Hamptons-based riff on the Count of Monte Cristo, featuring Madeleine Stowe's icy queen bitch and an ageless dog. Both shows sound silly and lightweight, but give 'em a try and perhaps you'll be as entertained as I was.

Agree? Disagree? What makes your top TV of the year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Coming Soon...

In a few days, I'll be starting the 2011 version of TNRLM's Favorite TV Character Contest.

To brush up on what's come before, you can see the setup for 2009 HERE, and the results of that challenge (with the answers) HERE. The 2010 character collage is HERE, and the results for that one can be found HERE.

Feel free to chime in with some of your favorite characters below.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Most Annoying TV Characters

Vulture just ran a piece counting down their take on "TV's Ten Most Annoying Characters."

I completely agree with several of their choices: Will Schuester, Ted Mosby, Andy Bernard (who wears on my last nerve so much I almost always fast forward through his scenes), and Josh Shannon. I would probably agree with a few more, but I don't watch their shows, so I'll just take their word for it.

To that list, I'd add:

  • Tom Haverford and Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation. I know they're played for laughs, but my douche-meter is easily tripped. And they don't make me laugh.
  • Nelson Van Alden and Lucy Danziger from Boardwalk Empire. He's a pious, stone-faced crazy zealot (though I think Michael Shannon is a talented and interesting actor) and she's a horrific baby-voiced character played by a terrible actress. I mean, how often do you see excessive nudity on an HBO show and say "just NO - please get it off my screen!"?
  • Henry from Once Upon a Time. Take your fucking book and shove it up your ass. I would actually endorse an Evil Queen child abuse plot.
  • Shirley from Community. And in the context of the Greendale world, they say Britta Brittas their interactions. As a viewer, Shirley Brittas my enjoyment of the show.
  • Lori Grimes from The Walking Dead. If you're stupid enough to think "morning after" pills work weeks later, then you're stupid enough to be an appetizer for the undead.
  • Quinn and LaGuerta from Dexter. Really, it could be almost all of Miami Metro except for Dex and (fucking) Deb. But Masuka is good for laughs, and Angel can occasionally not actively antagonize me as a viewer. But these two? Ugh.

What about you? Who makes your "annoying" list?